It’s a lot of weight to place on the rookie’s shoulders, but who else is going to step up?
How is Means going to hold up?
Means allowed six runs and surrendered three homers for the first time in his career and the Orioles settled for a split of their doubleheader with a 12-4 loss to the Rays before an announced crowd of 24,810 at Camden Yards.
Failing to earn their first sweep in three years, the Orioles fell to 28-64 overall and 12-33 at home. They’ll attempt to split the series without Cashner starting on Sunday.
Stevie Wilkerson followed his two-run homer in Game 1 with a two-run single with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth after the Rays took a 3-0 lead. But Means wasn’t his usual self, tagged with six runs and eight hits in six innings and raising his ERA from 2.50 to 2.94.
Means didn’t pitch in the All-Star Game. He might be wishing that he hadn’t stepped on the mound tonight.
Tonight marked only the second time that Means surrendered multiple home runs, the first on April 29 in Chicago when he allowed his previous high of four runs this season.
The Orioles must make a roster move before Sunday to fill out their 25-man roster. David Hess must return to Triple-A Norfolk tonight after serving as the 26th man because he hasn’t fulfilled the required 10-day minimum stay in the minors upon being optioned.
Hess allowed three runs in the seventh, two on Tommy Pham’s homer, and the Rays built a 9-2 lead before Hanser Alberto hit a solo homer to center field in the bottom half - ruled a triple until a 36-second review overturned the call.
Tayler Scott worked the ninth inning as the 48th player used by the Orioles this season, eight short of the club record set last year. He’s the 33rd pitcher.
Nate Lowe hit a two-run homer off Scott and Michael Brosseau followed with a shot to left, giving both multi-homer games tonight. The Rays hit six home runs to increase the Orioles’ count to 179.
Meanwhile, Tom Eshelman could be recalled and start the series finale against the Rays. He hasn’t pitched for Norfolk since July 7.
Eshelman made his major league debut with the Orioles on July 1 at Tropicana Field and allowed two runs in five innings. The last four innings were scoreless.
Means, in his first start following the All-Star Game, served up a two-run homer to Brosseau in the second inning and a solo shot to Yandy Díaz leading off the fourth. Brosseau’s first two major league home runs came against Means.
Lowe’s two-run shot with one out in the sixth upped the lead to 6-2 as Hess warmed in the bullpen.
The Orioles wasted Wilkerson’s leadoff double in the third, but they got to Charlie Morton in the fourth after he retired the first two batters on ground balls. Chance Sisco and Renato Núñez singled, Chris Davis walked and Wilkerson lined his two-run single into right field.
Alberto and Jonathan Villar led off the fifth with singles, but Morton escaped the jam with two fly balls and a strikeout of Sisco.
Villar saved a run from scoring in the fourth with a diving catch to rob Willy Adames with Avisaíl García on second base. He made a diving backhanded stop and throw to deny Diaz in the sixth after Travis d’Arnaud led off with a double, but García followed with an RBI single for a 4-2 lead.
Lowe’s home run to left field stuck Means with six runs, one more than his previous high in his major league debut Sept. 26 at Fenway Park in the first game of a doubleheader. He worked 3 1/3 innings in relief.
Means hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs since May 24 in Colorado. He was done tonight after six innings and 98 pitches.
The Orioles allowed double-digit runs for the 18th time this season.
The final margin was determined after Villar’s RBI single off Adam Kolarek in the bottom of the ninth.
Dwight Smith Jr. went 0-for-5 and is hitless this month in 24 at-bats.
Note: Hunter Harvey pitched in relief again tonight with Norfolk and allowed five runs and five hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Update: The Orioles returned Hess to Norfolk after the game.
Hyde said he hasn’t decided on a Sunday starter and could use an opener. He needs to check with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and formulate a plan.
“I’m not going to consider anybody until I hear who they’re considering,” he said.
Cashner was supposed to start but he’s been traded to the Red Sox for two low-level minor leaguers.
“Now we’re TBA and we’re going to try to figure some things out. This just happened before the game. I don’t know if we’re going to try to do an opener, probably have a move here and we’ll figure it out,” Hyde said.
“Good for Andrew Cashner. I’m happy for him. He was phenomenal for me, for the coaching staff, for the players. He was the ultimate team guy, ultra pro, unbelievably competitive and was a huge help not only for me but everybody else. I wish him the best, except when we face him. Hopefully, he gets a chance to go to the postseason and wishing good things for him.”
It was a strange day for the rotation with Cashner traded and Dylan Bundy going on the IL. Means is the last of the big three still standing.
“We’re realistic about where we are and about possible movement and things that are, we’re a million miles away from being where we’re going to be here sometime soon,” Hyde said. “These are things that are to happen. We need people to step up. Like I’ve said a million times, it’s the land of opportunity. We’re giving guys starts that. If you can’t savor these moments while you’re in the clubhouse you’re going to kick yourself later in life.”
Means said he won’t put pressure on himself to cover for Cashner and Bundy.
“No, I mean, there’s no pressure,” he said. “The goal this year is a lot of guys are getting a lot of time, getting a lot of work in without a lot of pressure obviously to perform and get wins. Obviously, we’re here rebuilding.”
Means had his worst outing in the majors with six runs in six innings, including three homers.
“Honestly, I felt pretty good,” he said. “I felt that the homers they did hit were pitches that I wanted to throw in that location, so you just kind of tip your cap. I know Brosseau’s got me twice and one was off a changeup away for a ball and this one was a fastball up and in. So it’s like, all right, tip your cap.
“It’s just part of getting that experience up here. Just kind of getting the experience of coming back after a rough game like that and coming back as the same person that I was and just kind of reestablishing it.”
Said Hyde: “I thought Means threw the ball pretty good. They cheated a couple fastballs in, kind of hit it, the ball was carrying good and they kind of hit it in that left-center field area where it’s pretty short. I think his breaking ball was real good tonight, real good changeup early in the game. 3-2 in the sixth, it got away from us after that.”
Means said he wasn’t out of sync following the break.
“No, I can’t make that excuse,” he said, “but I’ll get on a routine this week and then be back.”